Argentina prepare for JWC Pool A decider
By Oscar Jimenez
The scenario where New Zealand and Argentina meet on the last day of the pool stages to determine the Pool A representative in the semi finals is nothing new, it happened in the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship in Wales last year.
On that day New Zealand swept to a 60-0 victory en route to the title at a tournament where hosts Wales got the closest to the Baby Blacks with a losing margin of 25 points in the semi final. Diego Albanese, Argentina’s assistant coach again then, remembers that meeting only too well.
“We remember it was a very physical game and we were competitive for the first 15 or 20 minutes and after that we started to miss some tackles and you know that when you miss first tackles against these kind of teams like New Zealand you are in trouble,” recalled the former Pumas wing.
“The last 40 minutes we were just trying to stop them really. I think this year the boys are better prepared physically but we know how hard and how tough it is going to be. New Zealand is the favourite to win this Championship and we are 100 percent underdogs. We have to try to not make as many mistakes as we have been doing. That is a very important point.”
Enjoy the opportunity
New Zealand and Argentina both have much changed line ups from last year with only wing Zac Guildford eligible from the title-winning squad this time around and a couple of players returning for the Pumitas, including 2009 captain Santiago Guzmán, but for Albanese the challenge remains the same.
“The thing is for these kind of games against New Zealand, every mistake is points against us. That is why we are trying to say to the boys, we have to be really careful to keep possession and not do silly mistakes so we allow them to score easy points.
“It is a challenge for the boys, we ask them to enjoy the game, not everybody has the opportunity to play against the All Blacks [New Zealand] at any level so that is why we are asking them to enjoy it, to have a good experience and to give their best on the pitch.”
New Zealand currently sit top of Pool A with nine points after wins over Uruguay (75-0) and Ireland (17-0), three more than Argentina, who bounced back from their opening 16-9 loss to the Under 20 Six Nations runners-up by beating their South American neighbours 33-15 in a typically passionate encounter.
The fact that New Zealand were not at their clinical best against Ireland and put under significant pressure that saw them miss five of their first six kicks at goal and force the issue on attack does give Albanese and the Pumitas hope of getting the win they need to potentially pip the Baby Blacks to top spot.
“There are not too many [weaknesses] unfortunately! Any team has their weaknesses and we have been trying to find them and we will see, we will try to play our game. Ireland is a great team, it was good to see how tough and how much pressure Ireland put on the New Zealanders and we will try to do the same thing.
“I think the platform for us will be the defence, we will try to perform well and try to reduce the number of missed tackles as much as we can. That is going to be a good point, if we start missing tackles we will be in trouble very soon.”
Albanese, head coach Eduardo Fernández Gill and the whole squad would dearly love to guarantee an improvement on their eighth place finish by reaching the semi finals, but a move to Tokyo to face the Pool D winner in the last four is not the be all and end all for the Pumitas.
“We are always here to keep working and to try to play the best rugby we can, but we are not thinking about results, we are thinking about performances and that is what the players are trying to do, to play their best rugby and we will see if that is enough or not.
“The thing is when you lose and you know that you didn’t play as well as you can [is difficult], but if you play as well as you can and you get beaten well that is fair enough.”
** Watch the climax of Pool C in Osaka live and on-demand for free on Saturday 13 June. First up will be Italy's encounter with Fiji at 13:00 local time, followed by South Africa's battle with France at 19:00 to determine who will travel to Tokyo to contest the semi finals. **
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** You can also watch on-demand the Pool B matches (England v Japan and Samoa v Scotland) on 5 June, the Pool A matches (Uruguay v Argentina and Ireland v New Zealand) on 9 June, along with highlights of both matchdays. **
Click here to watch these matches on-demand >>